Saturday, September 30, 2006

Verify What You Are Told

My friends send me chain e-mails about a variety of issues.

Sometimes, when a story in the e-mail interests me enough to find out more, I send them a reply requesting for the source of their information. (I guess it's an occupational hazard for anyone with legal training; wanting to know the basis of any information that one seeks to rely on.)

A lot of times, my friends come back and reply that they have not verified the information.

I received one such e-mail a few days ago. It is about an event, which involves two famous celebrities, Oprah Winfrey and Tommy Hilfiger.

The story goes: "I'm sure many of you watched the recent taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show, where her guest was Tommy Hilfiger. On the show, she asked him if the statements about race he was accused of saying were true. Statements like"...if I'd known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jewish and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice. I wish these people would *NOT* buy my clothes, as they are made for upper class white people." His answer to Oprah was a simple "YES". Where after she immediately asked him to leave her show."

There are other versions being circulated too.

Both celebrities have shared that this incident did not happen.

One website, which is a useful source for verifying such chain e-mails, notes, "Tommy Hilfiger is not the first or last famous person to be falsely accused of publicly telling certain ethnic groups to not buy their products. Liz Claiborne, Lauren Hill and Shakira all stand accused. None of the accusations stand up to scrutiny. Some are based on misunderstandings, while others, like the one above, are complete fabrications built on favorite elements of urban legendry. Break this Chain."

Delivering the Commencement Address at Yale University in 1962, the late American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy shared: "As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality. For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Mythology distracts us everywhere."

It is important to verify what we are told. Otherwise, being the inherently fallible species that we are, we too become distracted by mythology and risk ending up as liars.

And if you are one of those who have been circulating this unfortunate story about Tommy Hilfiger, do Tommy a favour, redeem yourself and buy his clothing today.

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hady Mirza Second Singapore Idol

I did not follow the recent Singapore Idol contests; only caught the last episode when the phone lines for voting the second Singapore Idol opened.

I found Hady Mirza to be the better singer. My family voted for him. I am happy Hady won!

When Taufik Batisah became the first Singapore Idol, I had shared in a newspaper, "The Singapore Idol contest, where 3 million votes were cast, could also be viewed as a mandate for equality. And the winner, Taufik Batisah, is a shining example of the fact that meritocracy, not ethnic considerations, mattered in the end."

I am also happy that this view still holds water.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hassle-Free Payment For Union Membership


Union members are now being made to pay their dues by GIRO under a "seamless membership" banner. It affects people like me who do not use GIRO but prefer, for our own unique reasons, to transact by cash, cheque or credit card.

The only other choice given to us is to terminate our union membership. And loyal union members will find it difficult to make this other choice.

As the labour movement prepares to appeal to all as part of it 2011 vision, it must seriously consider becoming hassle-free and provide other payment modes for union dues. For example, payment by the NTUC-OCBC credit card.

Otherwise, it may well be that some of these persons or less loyal union members may find it more hassle-free to make the choice to terminate their membership or not be a union member.

I hope NTUC and its unions will look into this suggestion.

Dharmendra Yadav


Thank you for the suggestion. We are indeed looking into the payment of membership fees via NTUC-OCBC card.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Readers Question: Tan Kin Lian Stepping Down

After the newspaper reports in Business Times, The Straits Times and Berita Harian, some readers have wrote in to ask me about this. Here are some of the frequently-asked questions.

Is it true that Tan Kin Lian is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of NTUC Income?

Yes, he will step down on 1 April 2007 "to pursue other interests". He has confirmed this on his blog.

By that time, Tan would have given 30 years of public service to NTUC Income.

What is your reaction?

The announcement was received by some colleagues as a shock. But to many I know, it was an affirmation of issues that have been discussed in the office in the past week.

I joined NTUC Income on 15 August 2003. I have worked in NTUC Income as its Legal Counsel for about 3 years and 1 month now. I was expected to last less than a year.

In these 3 years, I have learnt many things. But one key lesson is that, in any situation, we must be positive and make the most of the opportunities it brings.

I think a new leader will bring new ideas and new ways of doing things in NTUC Income.

What else do you hope to see in the new leader?

First, the same courage that Tan had to make his views known, even if the issue involved regulators or others with influence.

When I joined NTUC Income, my mentor told me, "Tan Kin Lian is one person who will stand up for what he thinks is right. And he is the one person who will let you do the same. So the opportunity to work with him is an honour."

Second, the same desire and willingness that Tan had to help deprived constituencies in society.

I remember, when I first joined NTUC Income, a manager had put forward a proposal to Tan. The manager painted a very rosy picture and provided enticing figures to support that image.

Tan replied, "Our goal as a cooperative is not make too much money. We only need to make a reasonable amount of money. Our goal should also be to help people and to create jobs so that they can help others."

Third, I hope the new leader will preserve some of the laudable things that Tan has done. For example, our level of promptness in responding to queries and the accessibility of the Chief Executive Officer to our policyholders.

How do you think the newspapers covered the report?

I think the reports could have painted a better picture of what he has achieved and the legacy he is leaving. But then, there was no confirmation that he is actually leaving. Now that this is known, perhaps, the newspapers will do so.

It is not easy to take a cooperative "from an asset base of $40 million in 1977" to "total assets exceeding $17 billion and annual premiums exceeding $2 billion". NTUC Income is also "rated "AA" by Standard & Poor's, [which] is the highest rated insurance company from Asia".

Tan Kin Lian brought you into NTUC Income. Is your position secure?

I do not report directly to him, although I have done some work for him from time to time. The status of my position is determined by the head of legal, who supervises me.

In any case, I think, in this day and age, it will be fool-hardy for anyone to think he has a secure position.

It is more important to know if one is adding value and if such value creation is appreciated.

In this respect, at the start of every year, I agree on a set of performance indicators with my supervisor. And by the end of the year, I am measured against these benchmarks. So far, I am meeting most of these standards.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Keep Your Mobile Phone Number Confidential

Digital Phone Company in England has revealed, "Millions of mobile phone users are being subjected to a new wave of money making scams currently being carried out by a number of rouge agents set on taking advantage on the curiosity of the individuals they target."

As a result of this scam, a colleague ended up chalking a bill S$1581. He cancelled his mobile phone line subsequently.

Another colleague shared, "I received [an] sms saying I'd won US$80K, and to call back a China [number] for instructions on how to get the prize. Very tempting, and I'm sure some people would have fallen for the scam."

Digital Phone Company recommends, "The best way to prevent this scam is to apply caution, and only return missed calls to those numbers you recognise. And remember, if someone is genuinely trying to get hold of you, they’ll call again."

My view is that the problem has more to do with the way we use our mobile phone numbers.

Many people today give out their mobile phone numbers indiscriminately. They participate in marketing promotions such as lucky draws with these numbers. They also join other mailing lists with such numbers.

These lists are later sold for profit and eventually end up being used for dubious purposes.

Individuals must take steps to protect their privacy. Disclose your mobile phone numbers only if necessary.

Limit such disclosure to friends and family only.

You can also disclose it to reputable or credible organisation with clearly-defined policies about how your phone number will be used, or financial institutions which may need to get in touch with you for urgent transactions.

If you need to disclose phone numbers to any other party, use your land line number.

Most importantly, if your mobile phone number has been compromised, do yourself a favour - change it or get rid of it.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tissues & Tables: Changing Bad Dining Habits

A fellow corporate counsel today shared with me about how objectionable he finds the way people "chope" seats by placing packets of tissues on the table in a food court or hawker centre.

The Coxford Singlish Dictionary defines "chope" as "to reserve or hold something for somebody" and it is "sometimes used in games to denote having attained a 'safe' position".

TalkingCock.Com has described this as one of the "60 signs you're a true Singaporean".

Others have labelled this practice "weird" or "bizarre". I too find this practice objectionable and selfish.

Clearly, it is something the Singapore Tourism Board appears to have concerns about too: "For safety’s sake, don't leave your belongings unattended. It’s easiest if someone stays behind to reserve – or as we say, 'chope' – the table."

Despite these reactions, I find it revolting how so many people just accept this bad habit and let it be.

I guess it's in our psyche to not rock the boat and let things be. This can only serve to worsen the situation.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

And I think we all agree we want a more positive world.


The major hawker centres and food courts can prohibit people from reserving tables with packets of tissues. They can also empower their cleaners to get rid of the packets of tissues.

It makes good business sense. It will increase sales of packets of tissues.


If you know of persons who book tables with packets of tissues, tell them to stop doing it.

When you next eat at a hawker centre or food court, sit at the table where a person has placed the packet of tissues.

If the person approaches you and says the table has been reserved, smile and reply you did not know. As a compromise, offer to share the table.

If the person persists to be rude, threatens or intimidates you - which has, very rarely, happened to some of of my friends - call the police or the security at the food court.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Outgoing Leaders: Leave No Strings Attached

A colleague currently attending an industrial relations conference in Bangkok wrote, "Japan has a very interesting model to handle Greying Issues and the re-employment of senior workers. The retirement age in Japan is 60. When a manager retires today, he is being re-employed as a consultant and plays an active role in guiding his deputy who is promoted to take his place. This excellent solution provides both good career advancement opportunities to younger colleagues and re-employment opportunities to more senior colleagues, where their much valued experience can be shared and continued."

I prefer another model.

Not too long ago, a senior person stepped down from heading an organisation in Singapore. He continued to come back to the office afterwards. The new man sent him a memo to such effect; requesting him to vacate the office expediently, as his continued presence was not helping the transition to new leadership.

The old man's office was moved out of the premises soon after. And he has gone on to contribute to other organisations in other ways.

When a manager retires, he should let the new man handle his job without his looming presence. This will enable the new man to pursue his ideas freely without any shadow lurking around.

This is especially useful in situations where one's predecessor is what Harvard Business Review describes as a "narcissistic leader".

Separately, it is useful in roles where your position requires absolute independence. For example, as chief justice of a country.

The old man is, of course, free to share his experience with other companies. The world can be the old man's oyster.

After all, a good manager's expertise is transferable skill and can be as valuable elsewhere.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reader's Question: Can I Share Your Blog?


Hi, I stumbled upon your blog by chance. I am impressed by the content and style of writing, as well as the purpose (the way you sign off says it all) of your entries. Gushing aside, I would like to request your permission in allowing me to share your blog addresses with my friends. (21-year-olds have much to learn!) I believe they would benefit much from the knowledge that you share on your site, as well as learning about being happy. May I spread the word? - Joy =)


Yes, Joy, Think Happiness can certainly be shared! You and any other reader have my permission to share the blog address.


At first, I was somewhat perturbed by this question. But I remembered that it is normal for some terms of use on certain websites to say you are not allowed to link to that particular website without prior consent from the website owner / publisher. I also realised that this blog is silent on such a position; there is no express permission or prohibition. Perhaps, the reader was in doubt and wished to clarify her rights of use. Hence, an express permission is now given to all readers, thanks to Joy!

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is the Singapore Police Force inadequately prepared for outdoor protests?

There was a Channel Newsasia report on 12 September 2006: "WTO summit showed outdoor protests can turn violent: S'pore Police".

The report noted, "International Risk says, on hindsight, this episode uncovered a key problem - that the Hong Kong authorities did not adequately prepare for such a thing to happen, and it is a risk the Singapore Police Force is not prepared to take."

Immediately after this, the man shouldering the prime responsibility of security for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings was quoted.

Soh Wai Wah, Chief of Staff, Singapore Police Force, shared why these meetings pose key risks for Singapore. He said, "This underscores the point that outdoor protest can be unpredictable. They may appear harmless, but they have a huge potential to turn disruptive or violent unexpectedly. Singapore has been a terrorist target for a number of years and now. On top of that we have this high profile meeting, VIPS coming from all over the world. So we are even more attractive than ever. The threat of security is very real and that is whey we are taking it very seriously."

It is appreciated that the report intended to show the security risks facing Singapore.

But a reasonable person reading the report was likely to come away with the impression that, having factored in the unique security risks for Singapore during the IMF/World Bank meetings, the Hong Kong experience at the World Trade Organisation summit and its own level of preparedness for such risks, the Singapore Police Force concluded that it was ill-prepared for the risks of outdoor protests and has therefore opted to ban them.

Simply put, the report appears to imply that the Singapore Police Force is not taking on the risk of outdoor protests because it is not adequately prepared for such a thing to happen.

To what extent is this true?

Firstly, this appears to run contrary to what the Singapore Police Force has been assuring members of the public about its level of preparedness. It has been quoted extensively in the media that it is prepared to deal with outdoor protests fairly and firmly. It has also invested substantially in assets that will enable it to address effectively public disorder situations.

To a competent policeman, there can be no better baptism of fire than having to really face and control such security situations.

Unfortunately, despite this, it seems that the hands of the Singapore Police Force are tied on this issue, as much as the Singapore Police Force has shown and is showing that it is highly prepared for the risks of outdoor protests.

Perhaps, there are some who do not share this same level of confidence as certain members of the public or the Singapore Police Force itself.

As a result, the prohibition on public gatherings, unless authorised, continue to be enforced NOT because Singapore Police Force is ill-prepared but for other reasons.

I hope that the media will appreciate the unique situation the Singapore Police Force finds itself in, and treat these public servants as fairly and firmly as they would others.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, September 11, 2006

FAQ: Third Thursday Thinking Talkies

Over the last 3 years, I have from time to time organised dinner gatherings on the third Thursday of every month. Here are some frequently-asked questions about these gatherings.


When I first started this initiative, the main intention behind this was for me to find an efficient way to catch up with friends that I had lost touch with. Since then, the idea has evolved to Third Thursday Thinking Talkies.

At these dinners, I bring about 15 - 20 people from different walks of life together; sometimes, they bring friends.

They join me for a meal, and on a typical evening, we discuss a range of issues from history to culture to current affairs to international developments to society, and other things which people wish to know more about.


Each person pays about $10-$15 for his own meal.


People are requested to come without expectations. They should be prepared to meet everyone and anyone!


I have hosted at the same table young and old; academics, students and school drop-outs; chief executives, businessmen, social entrepeneurs, professionals and persons just starting out in their careers; news-makers and journalists; leaders from various sectors of the community; the religious, the non-religious and even a psychic!

One of the things I have realised is how much others know that I don't. And I think the realisation is the same for people who have attended Third Thursday Thinking Talkies. It has been an engaging gathering of wit and wisdom of sorts!

Some who have attended have also gone on to organise their own similar gatherings.


Leave a comment here requesting for an invitation and your e-mail address.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Parallel Importers Get More Attractive

Individuals in Singapore prefer to buy cars from authorised distributors, even though parallel importers can offer cheaper cars. Many of my friends have done the same too.

On 26 July 2006, the Business Times, Singapore, reported that "a total of 61,069 passenger cars were registered by the LTA [Land Transport Authority] in the first half of 2006, and parallel imports accounted for 12 per cent".

A key reason for this trend is the warranty of up to 3 years that comes with the car one purchases from an authorised distributor. This enables a person to have peace of mind, should any manufacturing defect affect the car in the short term.

Now, NTUC Income has started an initiative to make it as attractive, if not more, for individuals to buy from parallel importers. It will work with selected parallel importers to provide a similar warranty on parts due to manufacturing defects. It will also offer motor insurance cover at competitive premiums. More information is available at this website.

In my personal view, this is a useful development for the budget-conscious consumer.

It will also make the growing private transport sector in Singapore more competitive.

Dharmendra Yadav